Policy brief | What Is Chile’s Long-Term Climate Strategy?

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Pilar Moraga, Deputy Director of the Center of Environmental Law of the School of Law of Universidad de Chile and Principal Researcher of the Governance and Science-Policy Interface line at the Center for Climate and Resilience Research (CR)2

In the context of the launch of the participant engagement process of Chile’s Long-Term Climate Strategy in May 2020[1], it seems important to look at this strategy’s role and content as a public policy instrument for climate change. To this end, it is worth recalling that Article 4 of the Paris Agreement invites all Parties to formulate and communicate their long-term strategies for low greenhouse gas emissions development, taking into account the Agreement’s objectives set out in its Article 2.[2]

Domestically, in January of this year, the Chilean Ministry of the Environment submitted to the National Congress the Climate Change Framework Bill (PLMCC for its acronym in Spanish). Article 1 of this bill establishes as its objective: “to face the challenges presented by climate change; to move towards a development that is low in greenhouse gas emissions, until reaching and maintaining the neutrality of these emissions; to reduce vulnerability and increase resilience to the adverse effects of climate change; and, to comply with the international commitments assumed by the State of Chile in this matter.” In keeping with the foregoing, Article 4 provides that: “By 2050, greenhouse gas emission neutrality shall be achieved.”

Against this backdrop, the executive branch’s initiative describes the Long-Term Climate Strategy (LTCS) as the instrument in charge of defining “the general long-term guidelines that the country will follow across multiple sectors and in an integrated manner, considering a 30-year horizon, for the fulfillment of this law’s goal” (Article 5).

Such general guidelines, in terms of climate change mitigation, refer to the definition of: a) a national budget of greenhouse gas emissions up to the year 2030 and 2050; and b) sectorial budgets of greenhouse gas emissions up to the year 2030. It is worth noting that the process for determining these budgets must consider criteria of cost-effectiveness and equity in burdens. This latter term tacitly recognizes the need to strengthen a concept of justice in the distribution of burdens that arise in the ecological transition process put forward by the legal proposal.

Along with this, the LTCS addresses guidelines on adaptation; integration between national, sectorial and regional policies; synergy with mitigation and adaptation measures; risk assessment and monitoring; and reporting and verification.

The bill indicates that the Ministry of the Environment is in charge of the process of preparing the LTCS in coordination with the sectorial authorities, and it also contemplates a public consultation stage (to last sixty business days). A report from the Scientific Advisory Committee on Climate Change is also required, as well as a statement from the Council of Ministers for Sustainability and Climate Change.

Finally, the Long-Term Climate Strategy, as well as the Ministry of the Environment’s sectorial plans, will be approved through the issuance of a supreme decree by the Ministry of the Environment and signed by the Minister of Finance.

Nevertheless, according to the indications of the bill’s Article 15, the Ministry of the Environment will be responsible for drafting, revising and updating (every ten years) the LTCS as well as coordinating its implementation, a task that will be carried out in collaboration with the sectorial authorities. It is worth noting that the transitional provisions establish that the strategy must be prepared within a year from the publication of the Climate Change Framework Law, whose bill is currently under discussion in the Senate Committee on Environment and National Assets.

In terms of the foregoing, various stakeholders from academia and the public and private sectors have been invited to make several observations to the current definition of this climate policy instrument, summarized below:

  1. The executive branch’s initiative establishes that the supreme decrees approving the Long-Term Climate Strategy and the Sectorial Plans of the Ministry of the Environment must be signed by the Ministry of Finance, which has been considered as a veto, and a double control, afforded to the latter ministry, because these instruments must also be approved in the Council of Ministers for Sustainability in which the Ministry of Finance already participates.
  2. The implementation of the Strategy depends on the execution of sectorial plans, whose drafting, monitoring and fulfillment is the responsibility of the sectorial ministries.
  3. The Strategy is a public policy that sets guidance in implementing public policy, but it is not binding, leaving compliance with the Strategy up to the will of the sectors.
  4. The participant engagement processes carried out by the Ministry of the Environment within the context of the drafting of the PLMCC have been criticized for the type of participation that has been implemented. These mainly point to the inconsistencies arising from the Chilean government’s refusal to sign the Escazú Treaty, as well as the format of the participation processes, which would entail merely providing information.
  5. The time intervals, every ten years, for the review to be conducted seem unreasonable in relation to the rapid evolution of the physical phenomenon of climate change and its impacts.
  6. The private sector, for its part, has highlighted the need for the consultation process in the development of the Long-Term Climate Strategy to provide the various stakeholders with sufficient information and promptly. It also underscores the importance of considering participant engagement and institutionalized processes during the Strategy’s implementation.

As such, the current consultation process for preparing the Long-Term Climate Strategy is being carried out in parallel with the discussion of the Climate Change Framework Bill in the Senate Committee on Environment and National Assets, which could potentially mean that the definition of the Strategy will crystallize before the law is enacted.

Notes

[1] May 18, 2020. See online launch here: https://www.facebook.com/MinisterioDelMedioAmbienteChile/videos/1115310418855275/

[2] Specific objectives: a) Holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels, recognizing that this would significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change; (b) Increasing the ability to adapt to the adverse effects of climate change and foster climate resilience and low greenhouse gas emissions development, in a manner that does not threaten food production; and c) Making finance flows consistent with a pathway towards low greenhouse gas emissions and climate-resilient development.